Stephen Amell and Jack Moore (Photo: Dean Buscher/The CW)

Let’s count ‘em off, shall we? Here’s what Arrow gives the world in its sixth season premiere: flashbacks (but recent ones!), resurrection (naturally), a mysterious villain whose face goes unseen, a daughter-related traumatic event that tests Quentin’s sobriety, a death that haunts Oliver, a diversion anyone not on Team Arrow could see coming a mile away, quippy banter courtesy of Curtis and Felicity, an attack on the police station, some impressive fight sequences, loads of slow-motion explosions, a rather high body count, the word ‘Hoss,’ and an endless supply of emotional baggage.

Oh, and they threw in a twist we’ve seen more than a few times—but hey, it’s a good one.

It seemed at the end of last year that Arrow was prepared to forge new ground, literally blowing up the island that’s been a magnet for both characters and writers for five seasons and more than 100 episodes. On that island was nearly every major character, with three significant exceptions: Oliver Queen, his son William, and Adrian Chase. When Oliver refused to kill Adrian, Adrian took matters into his own hands (or seemed to—you never can tell on this show, huh?), Lian Yu went up in flames, and the team behind Team Arrow had an almost entirely clean slate.

Well, what they;ve put on that slate is more of the same, albeit with a few important changes. There’s every chance that after this entertaining but workmanlike premiere, Arrow will go in a direction we’d never expect. Hell, if it doesn’t, that’s not necessarily bad news. Still, it’s hard not to feel let down that after a terrific finale that put almost every character we know and love in a position of grave and immediate peril, we get an hour that mostly checks boxes. “Fallout” is here to tell you who lives (almost everyone), who died (exactly the person you’d expect), and how the events of “Lian Yu” haunt those who survived. It’s an episode that fulfills its storytelling obligations, and does so in perfectly acceptable fashion, even managing to find room for a couple solid fight sequences, some genuine character development, and a joke or two. “Fallout” isn’t going to redefine Arrow, but for an hour of entertainment, you could do much worse. You can’t exactly call an episode with a tooth-bomb dull.

Plot-wise, there’s not much to report: Team Arrow stops Alex Faust (Dominic Bogart, having an almost indecent amount of fun) from blowing up the city, but lo and behold, getting caught was all part of the plan. Mid-interrogation, he rips a tooth out of his mouth, drops it in a soda, and there’s a mighty boom. Through the rubble walks the Black Siren, who is definitely not Quentin’s daughter, and as she and her bomb-toothed henchman stroll through the station, many things explode and several police officers are killed. Quentin believes she’s after him, for reasons that become clear down the road, and while Team Arrow believes they’re on her trail, they’re really following breadcrumbs to a diversion. Just like that, Team Not Quentin’s Daughter appear in the gang’s lair, here to kick ass and take a T-Sphere. Oh, and then Oliver gets outed. Again.

It’s familiar Arrow stuff, but the familiarity doesn’t totally rankle, because“Fallout” is far more concerned with, yes, the fallout. The episode efficiently confirms the still-living status of nearly every member of Team Arrow, Thea being a notable exception, within the first few minutes. Where this hour takes its time is in looking at what’s come of them in the year since they escaped from Lian Yu. Felicity and Oliver seem to be back together, though she’s still uncomfortable with William, who’s now living with Oliver. Felicity, Curtis, and Rene seem to be mostly recovered—Rene’s even got another shot at regaining custody of his daughter, and also has the soul of a poet, apparently—but the same can’t be said for the others.

Quentin’s struggles take up most of the episode’s oxygen, and that’s probably as it should be. It’s revealed that he had to “kill” the Black Siren to save Dinah, a fact the pair agreed to conceal from the others. After lying about the death of the woman he believes to be his daughter for more than a year, he’s left clinging desperately to the edge of the wagon, staring down a trio of unconsumed shots. While it would be nice to see Paul Blackthorne tackle something a little less familiar, it can’t be denied that he’s got a knack for it, and his candid conversations with Oliver about his struggle make as clear as anything could exactly how far that particular relationship has come. His relationship with the woman who is definitely not his daughter, however, has not progressed at all.

The same can’t be said of Quentin’s connection with the new Black Canary. Juliana Harkavy isn’t this show’s biggest hitter, but she does nice work here, revealing Dinah to be a woman clearly weighed down by her concern for Quentin, Diggle, and presumably the rest of the team. As ever, she’s no-nonsense and briskly competent (she’s a Lieutenant now!), and it’s telling that her troubles are all based in care for others. Her ability to see what others don’t, even when it comes to a friend’s struggle, is incredibly valuable, particularly to a group of people that’s exquisitely bad at talking about their feelings.

Speaking of, John Diggle’s got a secret. Whatever happened to him on Lian Yu—he’s one of the characters we don’t see in the flashbacks, post-explosion—continues to affect him, both physically and mentally. It’s unclear from where this problem springs, though the reveal, late in the episode, of a lingering injury suggests that said injury will become very important. Regardless of the cause of John’s, the result is a man living in both pain and fear. There’s something quite unsettling about seeing that particular character freeze in utter, helpless panic.

Twists land with a plop in nearly every episode of Arrow, and over the seasons, the ones that truly shock have become less and less frequent. Here’s one I genuinely didn’t see coming: the relentlessly troubled Oliver Queen willingly volunteers information about his personal life to the people he loves. When Felicity asks if he wants to talk about his trouble with William, he responds with “I’d love to,” and that’s a much bigger twist than any episode-ending reveal could ever be. He’s also increasingly self-aware and self-deprecating—he twice admits that he’s got a real problem with guilt, and on one of those occasions, he comes dangerously close to making a joke. Stephen Amell does great work with what he’s given, and while his final scene with William may be a little easy and expected, he sells the hell out of it, calmly and quietly.

Still, with this character and this series, nothing gold can stay. You can’t say he’s in a great place overall, having watched his child’s mother die near the unmoving body of Thea (who is later revealed to be in a coma.) By episode’s end, Oliver’s dealing with yet another literal identity crisis, one likely to disrupt his entire life. The internal crisis likely to define the season looms larger, however: Slade warns him that at some point he’ll have to choose between what the world needs from him and what his son needs, and it must be said that for a man who has spent years figuring out why he has the urge to right wrongs and dispense justice, that seems like a hell of a character arc.

“When are you gonna stop taking on everybody else’s sins, huh?” “No time soon.”

Stray observations

  • Hi, I’m Allison! The great Alasdair Wilkins has escaped the island, climbed out of a private helicopter, shed his island beard and hair, and begun life as the Innovation Editor at Inverse. He’s doing some pop culture writing there as well, and is still very good at his job. I’m excited and not at all terrified to attempt to fill his shoes.
  • Cheers to episode director James Bamford, who rolls out some really dazzling action sequences, including that gorgeous dive off the expressway. No less impressive, though slightly puzzling: the uninterrupted take that begins with Dinah wandering the graduation ceremony and ends with the start of the Oliver-Quentin guilt-off.
  • Black Siren doesn’t totally do it for me as a villain, but Katie Cassidy sure does seem to be having fun. Just watch the way she coos, then spits, the following: “The bad news is that you won’t be able to scream anymore but the good news is that you’ll be too dead to care!”
  • Are we meant to believe that the photo of Oliver sans mask came from the T-Sphere, or are these nefarious plans separate?
  • I don’t know how long we’ll have to wait for Slade Wilson (and Manu Bennett) to come back from Canada, but I can already tell you that it’s too long.
  • “Actually, we can kill the canines.” “What.
  • Salmon ladder count: 0.
  • Welcome back… Raisa?

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